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Apple’s “Siri” needs a digital update on agriculture

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Farm Press takes Apple Computer's latest technology — Siri — for a digital test spin on agriculture.

One of the most fun new digital “toys” on the market is the new Apple iPhone 4S cell phone. Television commercials on Apple’s latest telephone innovation tout asking any question by clicking on the phone’s microphone button with answers delivered in mere seconds via Apple.

Siri is the voice which verbally answers the answers…or tries too. In reality, many of Siri’s answers – no matter the question – are designed to help iPhone users find restaurant and grocery store locations. That’s good for agriculture.

I spent an hour taking Siri for a spin around the block asking general and specific questions about agriculture. Her responses were intriguing. Here is part of the Q&A.

Who is Siri?

That is me.”

Who are you?

I’m Siri – your digital assistant.

What is your job?

I am not allowed to divulge that information.”

Siri, what is agriculture?

I don’t understand agriculture.”

At least Siri was honest. Few people understand agriculture.

Where does food come from?

I’m checking on your current location. I found 23 restaurants fairly close to you.”

Alas, food doesn’t come from the farm or the grocery store but from restaurants.

Does food come from the grocery store?

Mmm…still thinking. Ok, I give up…could you try again?

What is a farmer?

Checking my sources.”

Siri shared a link to a web page from the WolframAlpha computational knowledge search engine that read ‘the median wage for farmers is $32,350 per year.’

What is the best California wine?

I couldn’t find any places matching California wine.”

Shame-shame, Siri. California’s wine industry should toss your digital noviceness into a California Wine 101 class.

What are root-knot nematodes?

I don’t know.”

What is cotton? Siri provided the contact information from my computer’s Microsoft Outlook for Cotton Nelson of the National Cotton Council.

What are aphids?

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘hey foods.’ Sorry, I don’t understand aphids.”

What are California almonds?

I couldn’t find any places matching California almonds.”

What an insult!

Are fruits and vegetables healthy?

“Found 24 restaurants with fruits and vegetables close to me.”

What is ethanol?

Hmmm…let me think.” A link was provided to a molecular description of ethanol’s melting point at 114 degrees Celsius. Geez, I thought ethanol was a liquid at any temperature. Let’s hear it for frozen ethanol on a popsicle stick.

What is immigration reform? Siri provided the name of an immigration service company six miles away.

What are environmental wackos? (I should have said ‘environmental extremists’)

“I don’t know that. Would you like to search the web for it?

I clicked yes and was shuffled to the website www.conservativedialysis.com which said global warming was a fraud.

What is California rice? Siri listed rice restaurants in California.

Is food expensive?

I found a number of restaurants in Sacramento, Calif.

Many questions delivered by Siri referenced restaurant locations in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Valley must be food heaven in the West.

How do you grow food? Siri launched the website www.verdant.net which talked about effective ways to raise organic food in a small area with MINIMUM effort and NO costs.

Do farmers work hard?

I don’t understand.”

Siri’s web link said, ‘A farmer’s work can be very hard. Hours are long, after sunrise to sunset.’

Where is lettuce grown?

I found a number of places matching LOVE – 24 of them are close to you.”

Goodbye, Siri.

OK. See you later.” 

cblake@farmpress.com

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